buildings on a beach

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases may be attributed to more Hawaiʻi residents not staying at home and gathering in public areas, according to a recent report by the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO).

Despite progress in vaccinations, Hawaiʻi has undergone a rise in new infections with recent cases concentrated among younger, unvaccinated individuals. On April 3, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases hit a peak of 117 new daily cases and has since declined slightly.

A new mobility report by UHERO shows 27% of residents are staying completely at home on a given day in early April 2021, only 7% more than pre-pandemic levels. During infection peaks in March and August 2020, 40% remained at home.

The mobility data allows for a comparison across islands and neighborhoods. Maui has undergone a steep decline in the share of residents staying at home, which correlates with the timing of rising infections.

Foot traffic in public areas

Information is also provided on foot traffic at various locations relative to normal levels. The number of people dining at restaurants has recovered to 63% of the pre-pandemic level. After a long period of almost no activity, foot traffic around hotels has recently increased to 54% of the normal level.

“Rising vaccination rates will help push new infections down, while rising mobility may push new infections up,” UHERO said. “Case counts over the coming weeks will largely depend on these two forces, and their relative effects will dictate how quickly Hawaiʻi can control the virus and ultimately return to normalcy.”

UHERO is housed in the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences.

Read more on UHERO’s website.

This work of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.